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Rivoli (Albany)

Author: Kathryn | No Comments
Categories: Berkeley & Albany | Tags: Tags: , , ,

1539 Solano Avenue
(between Neilson St & Peralta Ave)
Albany, CA 94707
(510) 526-2542


Liberty Duck Confit Cassoulet and Slow Braised Lamb Shoulder—these are the entrees that jump out from the Rivoli menu when you sit down to scour the list for a vegetarian option. Look for a vegan option and you will only read more about various fish and flat iron steak. If you are vegetarian-not-vegan, there might be a ravioli with dense cheese in butter sauce, or a wedding-type vegetarian food: something green or yellow packed into filo. Of course, you can always ask the waiter what can be done “off menu,” and he will say he’ll “ask the chef,” as if your request is that outre.

The last time I went to Rivoli was with a birthday party. It turned out their reservation system was mostly an illusion. About ten of us stood crammed into a small bar area up front, where the smirking hostess assured us it would be “just a minute more,” for the full forty minutes that we waited.

They do have an excellent wine menu, and I availed myself of that, in addition to bread. I know a lot of people love Rivoli, but as a vegetarian, the food was disappointing, and the service was lacking. The ravioli was of that giant, buttery variety, which tasted good in my mouth and instantly left me queasy. Ken got an “off menu” vegan entree that seemed to be white beans piled on spinach, splattered with pine nuts. I tasted it—not bad—but utterly unimpressive.

We’ve been to a number of high-end fancy restaurants in places like Maui that make fantastic off-menu vegetarian offerings. I’m sorry to say Rivoli isn’t in that category. They seem more determined to turn the animal you once loved as a first grade classroom pet into something crispy on your plate. If that’s your thing, and somehow you are reading this blog, then Rivoli is the place for you.

Everyone at our table was animated by the arrival of the signature mushroom fritters. I found them bland and oily, like something you’d regret ordering at a children’s theme park.

Cafe Fanny (Berkeley)

Author: Kathryn | No Comments
Categories: Berkeley & Albany | Tags: Tags: , , , , ,

1603 San Pablo Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94702
(510) 524-5447

Café Fanny Restaurant Rating

If you are curious what kind of breakfast you might have the day after a meal at Chez Panisse, you can go to Alice Waters’ Café Fanny.

Every time I eat there, I’m surprised by both the simplicity of their food, and how delicious it tastes. I generally order Two Poached Farm Eggs On Levain toast, and because the ingredients are fresh and organic, it is incredibly satisfying. If you don’t believe this matters, try it yourself! I entered a skeptic and left a believer. In addition to eggs and toast, the menu offers things like Café Fanny Organic Granola (also available in local grocery stores), which I haven’t tried, though it looks tasty. There are Buckwheat Crepes in the morning, Sandwiches and Salads for lunch, and desserts and pastries all the time. There’s even a small coffee counter inside.

The downsides to this place are the limited indoor seating and the pricing—it;s not cheap. Further, for the purposes of this blog, I’d rate their vegetarian options as limited, and vegan offerings downright scant—Waters’ conception of the good life definitely includes fine cheese and prosciutto. However, if you are looking for organic and delicious, and you’re feeling a bit indulgent, this is the place for you. It also has a real Berkeley feel, and just writing about it makes me hungry.

About the Authors

Ken and Kathryn are the authors of VegJapan, a vegetarian TravelBlog in Japan.


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